Pigs might fly as thatchers' battle raises the rooftops

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Before now the good people of Aldbourne and Chilton Foliat, two villages nestling on the Berkshire-Wiltshire border, were content with model pheasants adorning their thatched cottages.

But times move on and fashions change and now you are no one aound here if you have not got a straw cat or a pig padding across your roof. Thatched animal figures have long been a tradition in the area but the latest cavalcade of thatch topiary is the talk of the town. Residents are trying to outdo each other with more elaborate designs woven into their roofs.

They are employing thatchers to include cats, toads, and even a pig on the skyline. One resident, Louise Stacey, from Aldbourne, was proud of the new cat on her roof. "It seemed like a really good idea to have a thatched cat on the roof of my house because I have three cats myself and they have always been my favourite animal."

Thatcher Andy Aldiss has been weaving roofs for 13 years and has just crafted a toad which has appeared on one house, appropriately named Toad Hall.

Toad Hall's owner, Nick Wentforth-Allen, said: "We've had lots of people stopping and laughing. It's certainly added sparkle to people's lives." Photographs: John Lawrence